What is Headless Mode on a Drone? Headless Quadcopters Explained

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Many affordable drones are now shipping with the Headless Mode feature (also called Head Free Mode or Care Free Mode). But have you ever wondered how this feature works for a drone?  This article answers this very question to expand your drone knowledge.

Headless Mode at one time was only available on the more advanced, and expensive drones but with advancements in technology, this function is now being featured on affordable drones.

This function stems from the issue of orientation that many flyers come across. It can be hard to control the drone’s orientation using a joystick due to the fact that they are relatively small and the difficulty to tell the drone’s front from its back.

To help identify these directions, the back of the drone has props in dark colors, such as black or blue, while the front of the drone has red props. However, once the drone is a certain distance apart from you, it is virtually impossible to tell between the colors. This again poses the problem of orientation.

To solve this problem some manufacturers supply colored LED lights that specify the front with red lights, and the back with another color. However, in daylight these LED lights are pretty ineffective. So how to solve this problem? Headless Mode will solve it.

What Is Headless Mode?

In simple terms, Headless Mode allows pilots to give up worrying about orientation altogether. Regardless of which way the drone is facing, this function ensures that the drone will always follow controls from your perspective all the time.

The functioning of Headless Mode is pretty simple. The only thing that you need to do is to position the drone in such a way that its front is your front before taking off. When you activate Headless Mode, you don’t have to worry about which way the drone forward direction is pointing because the onboard flight computer always aligns the drone movements to be relative to the controller.

When you push forward, from your perspective, the drone moves forward, still from your perspective, and vice versa. For example, if the drone is flying towards you without Headless Mode and you command it to turn to your left, the drone would instead turn to ITS left.

This means that the Headless Mode function eliminates the need to have to keep track of the orientation of the drone, which makes flying the drone much simpler.

Should You Purchase a Drone With Headless Mode Feature?

It depends. Most drones that do offer Headless Mode are toy grade. Headless Mode can prove to be a headache-less choice if you’re a newbie who has yet to acquire a drone. For a new pilot still adjusting to flying a drone this feature provides an easy entry into the world of drones.

On the other hand, it is recommended to practice on a ‘regular’ aka non-headless mode drone if you want to take your hobby to the next level. Also, you can limit your options for upgrades by choosing Headless Mode. The mode advanced drone models don’t often have the headless mode feature.

This feature is perfect for aerial filmmakers because it closely mimics the perspective and mechanics required to use a video-camera and allows them to focus their attention on the filmmaking aspect. For them, filming is more of a priority and they do not want to waste their flying time trying to not to make any orientation mistakes.

How to use headless mode while flying a drone?

This mode is designed as a helper-feature for new pilots. The feature lets you fly a drone based on your direction rather than its flight path orientation. With Headless Mode activated, the drone moves in your direction whether you turn it 90 degrees to the left or right. This is of immense help for starter pilots as it can get pretty confusing when trying to figure out where is its front or rear end.

How to activate the headless mode?

Okay, now that we understand what the headless mode means, we want to find out how to activate it! Alas, there is no “one answer for all” scenario for this question. Rather, all drones use different methods to activate headless mode. Nevertheless, they are all quite straightforward and involve only one button press to make it work.

There are, however, some models where the headless mode is hidden. So if you can’t find it anywhere, and you’ve already pressed all the buttons… maybe a long press will activate it. I suggest that you read the manual to find out more. I’m sure you’ll find a picture of your controller and the explanation of how to activate the headless mode.

What are the advantages of flying in headless mode compared to normal flight mode?

It has already been mentioned that drone headless mode has several advantages over flying in normal mode. However, they are all primarily aimed at beginners and generally at people who cannot steer a drone properly in normal mode. If you already know how to fly an S-curve with your drone when it is not pointed directly at you, I suggest you avoid the headless mode.

Conversely, if you are a beginner who has difficulty controlling his UAV, here are some features of the headless mode that might help you:

  1. EASIER LEARNING CURVE

If you use the headless mode you will find it much easier to understand how to control drones. You won’t have to concentrate on the front of your drone anymore and you can perform all kinds of flips like never before.

  1. LESS CRASHING

Since the headless mode offers an easier learning curve, it is of course not surprising that there will be much less crashes. There will also be fewer spare parts to buy, and we all agree that this is a big advantage.

  1. INTUITIVE CONTROL

As I mentioned before, headless mode eliminates the need to focus on the current orientation of the drone, which could be a more intuitive control scheme for beginners. But don’t get too attached to it…

What are the cons of a headless mode on quads?

Once you get used to flying drones in this mode, you may find it difficult to switch to the standard flight mode where the movement is relative to the drone’s flight direction.

The headless mode will not work in most cases when you fly in FPV mode, and this is the mode in which you will fly most often. As a result, it is not good to rely on the headless mode when you start flying in FPV mode, just as you will fly if you have a drone with a camera or a racing drone. If you fly with FPV glasses or watch FPV videos on your controller or phone, always watch the shots from the front of the drone. Therefore, the drone always moves to the left and the drone always moves to the right.

Another thing you should be aware of is that the technology on board, which enables the headless mode, can be sensitive to electromagnetic interference. For example, if you fly near pylons or metal towers, headless mode may be compromised and the support it provides may be compromised or even stop working. If the function is lost completely, you must fly back with the normal mode.

Summary

The answer to whether to go the Headless Mode route or not can be complex. The Headless Mode feature on drones is perfect for the newbie and rookie pilots, and is useful in some situations where you lose track of the drone orientation.

On the other hand, some pilots are not fond of this feature and insist that you learn how to fly with the Headless Mode turned off. This function could also significantly limit your upgrade options. That’s why buying a cheap drone is considered to be the best choice.

Today almost every toy drone comes with features such as Headless Mode and Altitude Hold Mode. That said, you do not want to get a headless mode drone if you do wish to fly in FPV anytime soon. It remains to be seen if the demand for Headless Mode drones would elicit drone companies to produce more advanced drones with the Headless Mode function.

FAQs

Why do drones have headless mode?

Headless mode is just a tool, assistance for new pilots. It is flying mode that is features on virtually all entry-level drones available on the market. It removes the need for focusing on drone’s orientation and enables a much easier Line of Sight flying experience.

Does Mavic Pro have headless mode?

Mavic Pro, does have headless mode. They are dubbed as Home Lock and Course Lock on this Mavic model; each of these modes can control the direction of the flight and can be used mid-flight.

What are the best drones with headless mode?

Pretty much all popular drones of today come with this feature built in. Here are some of them:

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